Holding Funerals for Trees

In Bangalore, Raising Awareness About Deforestation

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Brand: Bangalore Environment Trust
Brand Owner: Bangalore Environment Trust
Category: Charities
Region: India
Date: March 2008
Media Agency: Rediffusion DYR
Media Channels: Out-of-Home, PR, Events, Web

The Bangalore Environment Trust (BET) wanted to raise awareness about the recent "massacre" at India's Garden City, Bangalore, where 1,500 trees, many around 100 years old, were felled to widen roads and improve traffic mobility.
On World Forestry Day, the Bangalore Environment Trust hired professional mourners known as Rudalis to publicly mourn the death of trees at various locations around the city.
On World Forestry Day, the Bangalore Environment Trust hired professional mourners known as Rudalis to publicly mourn the death of trees at various locations around the city.

The trust's wider purpose was to make the point that lives of trees are just as sacred as those of humans. To the BET, this attitude gained additional urgency with the United Nations' announcement that deforestation has increased by 8.5% in the past few years compared to during the 1990s, with hundreds of acres of forest still vanishing from the earth every day.

To shake the unconcerned people of Bangalore out of their apathy, the BET hit upon a novel way of emphasizing trees' status as "living beings," as alive and important as their own family members.

It hired Rudalis -- professional mourners traditionally employed to maintain the grieving mood at a funeral until all family members have arrived -- to pay homage to the deceased. On World Forestry Day, the Rudalis publicly mourned the death of trees at various locations around the city, where they could be found sitting around recently felled trees wailing and bawling.

This triggered significant curiosity among passersby, who were handed "obituary notes" thanking them for attending the tree's funeral. Interested citizens were also given a potted sapling with a customized message further reinforcing trees as living beings and raising the point that, if trees must be felled for whatever reason, then new ones must be planted immediately.

This hard-hitting activity generated massive word of mouth and media publicity worth 142 million rupees, with India's major newspapers all covering the story.

More than 1,700 people reported attempts to kill trees at a special section of the BET website. And importantly, the authorities agreed that more than 600 mature trees would be moved elsewhere rather than killed.

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